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Tag Archives: taking action on negativity

Leverage difficult situations into opportunities

AirplaneTakeOffDid you know that airplanes take off against the wind? It seems counterintuitive … you  would expect that it would be easier if the wind were coming from behind the aircraft, giving it a push. Yet in reality, it is easier for a pilot to take off when flying towards a full-force gale, rather than with it. The explanation comes from Newton’s Third Law of Physics … you remember, the one about how every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. When a plane thrusts into the wind, the fast air bearing down on the plane generates an upward force on the wings which helps lift the aircraft, thus allowing the plane to take off in a shorter distance.

Cool huh? Worth considering when everything at work seems to be going against you. Think about it for a moment … when setbacks occur, don’t you push back with an energy that allows you to lift up and above the difficulty? Sure you do! So make it more of a deliberate and conscious effort. Next time you’re faced with a problem or issue, ask yourself: what can I do to turn the negative force into an upward lift?

I would love to hear about how you’ve turned a headwind into a lifting boost. Or not! Please share online by leaving a comment below.

Workplace negativity is toxic

GlassWater1The unfortunate truth about negative people is that their sour attitudes bring the rest of the workplace down.  And if you’re a manager, supervisor or team leader, it’s this toxic nature of negative people that should cause you the greatest concern.  Imagine for a moment that you have a glass of water sitting in front of you.  The water in this glass is clear and bright.  But what if you were to take a pitcher of coffee and pour a few drops into the glass of water.  Immediately the coffee would swirl and spread through the glass of clear liquid, and cloud and darken the mixture.  Negative people are like that.  Just a few drops can immediately cloud and darken the team atmosphere.  Just a few negative people can dampen team morale and productivity.  Which means, if you are a leader, you need to take immediate action to deal with those few drops.  Otherwise, if left unchecked, team morale will slip, productivity will suffer, and bottom-line, your people will stop working well together.

So what can you do about it?  Well, there are no quick fixes, but it has to start with a conscious effort to cultivate a positive attitude in the rest of your people.  Notice my use of the word “cultivate” – creating a positive workplace is a process, not unlike the progression of gardening.  The positivity seeds have to be planted, frequently watered, given sufficient light and nutrients, protected from predators and diseases, and allowed to grow and flower. This requires monitoring and effort.  If you invest time and energy into creating a positive work environment, it will combat the negativity toxin that is spread by a nasty few.

What other ideas do you have to combat negativity in the workplace?

Overcome workplace negativity by feeding the grapevine

A couple of weeks ago, I offered up two ideas, based on my experience in my leadership development practice, about why negativity is so widespread in some organizations.  It struck a chord with a few readers because I received several private emails, all asking for advice on HOW to deal with this negativity.  I’ve already offered some perspectives and strategies to the folks who emailed, but it occurred to me that others may also benefit from this information.  So I’ll make it point to offer specific tips on this subject every so often in the upcoming months.  To get us started, here is one specific action that you can take if you are the supervisor or manager of a team that has one or more negative people.

GrapevineFeed the grapevine. Okay, that sounds a little cryptic, so let me explain.  Every organization, even if it’s small, has a rumour mill, or a grapevine.  And honestly, I figure that the company grapevine is quite possibly, THE MOST efficient and well-oiled form of communication known to mankind!  The crazy thing is that so many of the supervisors and team leaders that I work with are so frustrated with the company grapevine that they do everything within their power to squelch it or shut it down.  But the truth is that you can’t!  Instead, I subscribe to a different philosophy.  I believe that if you can’t beat ‘em, you should join ’em.  Instead of fighting AGAINST the company grapevine, you will have much greater success if you work WITH it.  Feed it with information!  When people have scarcity of information, they make it up!  And invariably, the stuff they make up are the worst possible scenarios.  And then, fueled by the most horrible possibilities, the rumour mill goes rampant and out of control.  Instead, if you provide as much information as you can (obviously without violating any confidentiality requirements), you will at least counteract, if not overcome the negative gossip that normally exists there.  The key is that you have to be willing to provide information, even if it’s not finalized or complete.  A lot of people prefer to wait until all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed before they share information, and it’s this very delay that get the negativity spinning and churning.  Feed the grapevine – communicate more, much more, much more often!

Have you observed any examples of this negativity churn in your organization’s grapevine?

Why is negativity so widespread?

Why is negativity so widespread in organizations today?  In my opinion, there are several reasons, but here are two of most common ones I’ve come across in my dialogues with managers and supervisors who are struggling with this very problem.

The first is that it gets attention.  It’s a lot like children “acting out”.  If you have children, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Many times children “act out” because that’s how they get attention.  In their childish minds they figure that any attention is a good thing even if it’s negative.  And unfortunately in many ways negative people can be like that.

The second most common reason negativity is so prevalent is because it elevates some people self-esteem to point out problems.  And think about this for a moment, people who are chronically negative suffer from low self-esteem.   So, the reason negative people behave the way they behave is because they seek to raise their self-esteem!  By the way, I’m not saying this makes their behaviour acceptable, but if you have an understanding of where this all starts, you will be able to deal with it more effectively

These are two reasons why negativity is so prevalent in organizations today, but what are some others?  What have you observed in your workplace?  Do share.

All it takes is one …

View of Manhattan from my W Hoboken hotel room
View of Manhattan from my W Hoboken hotel room

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the uber-posh W Hotel in Hoboken NJ, directly across the river from Manhattan NY.  The W chain prides itself on being very hip, a little unconventional, and oh-so-very customer-focused.  All of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  From the comfy bed, luxurious towels and in-room Bliss toiletries to the neon-shaded lobby, rock music in the elevators, and art-deco furniture in the lounge, I soaked it all in.  It tickled my fancy that they changed the floor mats in the elevators three times a day; depending on when you stepped in, the mats boldly said “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, or “Good night”.  And my favourite part: their signature phrase.  When you call any hotel department, the phone is answered with a cheery “Whatever, whenever”, which reflects their exceptional attitude and commitment to customer service.  And true to their word, during my 3-day stay there, I experienced their Whatever, Whenever service over and over again.  That is, with one notable exception. Continue reading